Sexual abuse survivor fronts campaign to highlight hardships children have experienced in 2020

A sexual abuse and anorexia survivor is spearheading a campaign highlighting the hardships children have endured during lockdown.

Hope Virgo, from Earlsfield who is a full-time campaigner and author, has urged families to talk openly about trauma.

Her plea comes as charity Childline has been besieged by callers since March and has hosted 43,000 counselling sessions.

Hope has shared how she felt out of place as a teenager, dealing with sexual abuse and anorexia.

The full-time eating disorder campaigner struggled with anorexia and other mental health problems after being sexually abused by a man in a position of trust when she was 12.

Hope, now 30, said: “Looking back, I can’t believe I let myself be manipulated like that, but I was just a child.

“I thought we were in a relationship. We’d go for day trips together, and as time went on it got more physical. He’d ask me to touch him and play with him – I hated it. He’d touch me, too.

“I was so stressed out by the situation that on one occasion I ended up self-harming.

“I guess I wanted someone to know something was up, but I didn’t know how to say it. I didn’t want to ‘tell’ on him, but I also didn’t want to be in this situation. I thought it was my fault this whole thing had started happening.

“The problems with controlling what I ate started soon after all of this. In 2007 when I was 17 I’d been battling anorexia for four years and was finally admitted to a mental health ward. I ended up living in hospital for a year.

“In one of our sessions, the psychologist asked a leading question about it and that’s when I made my first disclosure. I started getting loads of nightmares about it – I’d wake up in the night and be scared that he’d come back.

“My mum got involved and then the police got involved, but I wasn’t well enough at the time to pursue it. I was still really ill in hospital. Looking back, I wish I’d gone ahead with it. I guess I didn’t want to ruin his life, even though he ruined my life.

“I remember when I started putting on weight and I started feeling things again. It made talking about what happened with the guy much harder.

“If I’d talked about it when I was still feeling invisible, it would have been much easier. I enjoyed not feeling anything. I could switch off.

“It’s affected my relationships. I have to explain to people why I might just clam up and get really nervous. I’ve been lucky that I’ve had all the therapy and made a good recovery.”

Hope is now a full-time mental health champion and author, talking to schools and companies about mental health.

Childline has delivered higher monthly numbers of counselling sessions about a range of mental health-related issues since March, including low self-esteem, loneliness and worries about the world.

Mental health remains the top reason young people get in touch with Childline, making up more than a third of all counselling sessions delivered.

Pictured top: Hope Virgo




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One thought on “Sexual abuse survivor fronts campaign to highlight hardships children have experienced in 2020

  • 12 November 2020 at 22:46

    “It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practising medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.”
    (Childhood Disrupted, pg.228)

    Unimpeded abuse can launch a helpless child towards an adolescence and adulthood in which their brain uncontrollably releases potentially damaging levels of inflammation-promoting stress hormones and chemicals, even in non-stressful daily routines.

    It’s during their initial years of life that children have very malleable minds, like a dry sponge squeezed and released under water, thus they’re exceptionally vulnerable to whatever rearing environment in which they happened to have been placed by fate.

    Many people, including child development academics, would say that we owe our future generations of children this much, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.

    To me, basic logic and moral consideration for children’s health seem to be unjustly left far behind the fundamental human right to procreate.


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